What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Classifying Migraines

Healthcare professionals use very specific guidelines to diagnose and classify migraines and other headache disorders. Here's a look at some of the diagnostic guidelines and classification processes.

Brain Tumor or Migraine?

BASH is an acronym for the British Association for the Study of Headache. The Association has been involved in studying and creating guidelines for diagnosing migraines and other types of headaches since 1992. It works closely with other headache research organizations and has come up with a set of guidelines that help heath practitioners rule out the cause of severe headaches as a brain tumor.

Age is a deciding factor. The older the person experiencing migraine-like symptoms, the more likely they are to experience a brain tumor. Red flags that a migraine is actually a tumor include significant alterations in memory, confusion, consciousness or co-ordination, epileptic seizures, history of cancer or papilloedema (swelling of the optic disc).

Headaches with vomiting could indicate a brain tumor. Since vomiting with head pain is also a migraine symptom, this sign is not a definitive diagnosis of a tumor. It's considered an orange flag along with confusion, waking up with a headache or new headaches in a patient over 50. Personality change, memory loss or weakness/loss of motor skills can also indicate a tumor.

Headache Impact Test

If it's determined that sudden headaches aren't caused by a brain tumor, health care professionals may still want to complete further testing to determine the severity of the headaches for classification purposes. One diagnostic tool is the Headache Impact Test (HIT) which basically analyzes the impact an individual's headaches have on the person's ability to function in social situations, at home, on the job or at school. The test takes about two minutes and is developed by a team of neurologists, psychometricians and experts in primary care medicine.

Migraine Disability Assessment Scale

Also referred to as MIDAS, the migraine disability assessment scale was created as another tool to determine the impact headaches had on a person's life. If according to the test the impact is high enough, there's a greater likelihood that the patient suffers from migraines. If your physician uses it to diagnose migraines, you will be asked a series of questions about how headaches have impacted your life over the last three months.

The test is made up of seven questions including rating the pain of your headaches, how many days you've had a headache and if you missed any functions because of the headache.

MIDAS was developed by Richard B. Lipton, MD, Professor of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY, and Walter F. Stewart, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.